In case you aren't aware, the Republican Party is a bit wobbly.
A year ago, few people would have guessed the GOP would have arrived at such a dire crossroads by this point in the primary season. Most figured 2016 was going to be the Party of Lincoln's time to shine.
Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress, and their potential roster of presidential hopefuls looked impressive. It was believed that voters would get the chance to vet different candidates, each touting various rightwing bonafides and relevant professional experience. The hope was that at some point the cream would rise to the top, and Republican voters would coalesce around a powerhouse ticket strong enough to deliver the crown jewel of electoral triple crown: House, Senate, and finally the Oval Office.
Then Donald Trump happened.
No one is arguing that the GOP existed in perfect harmony pre-Trump. Anyone who's been awake since 2009 knows that's not the case. However, the internal bickering and squabbling marking intra-party discourse for the past seven years has moved to civil war status, with various factions threatening to bolt if the GOP nominee is unsavory to their preferred tastes.
If that does, indeed, happen, the Republican Party as we know it will cease to exist. Because, though they don't always see eye to eye, the survival of the GOP requires the cooperation of its three largest camps.
What are those camps?
First, there's the Trump bloc. This is the loudest crowd within the GOP. As Charles Murray noted in his recent Wall Street Journal essay, "Trump's America," "There is nothing conservative about how they (Trump supporters) want to fix things." But they're angry, they're dedicated to their leader, and though they've only made up 30-some-odd percent of primary voters, that's been enough to claim a plurality of Republican convention delegates so far.
At the core of this cadre are disaffected working-class individuals who've been abandoned by American elites. Their social and economic world is under siege, and they want a protector, someone who will Make America — the version they prefer, anyway — Great Again. Strength is more valuable than ideals to this crew.
The second major group is the orthodox conservatives. Their candidate, even if many folks within that camp aren't emphatic fans of him, is Ted Cruz. The junior senator from Texas is a proven conservative. He's also a proven jerk. Cruz has shown that he can win primary states, but the crowded GOP field coupled with his well-documented disagreeable nature has prohibited him from catching up to front-runner Trump.
Then there are the moderates who are split between John Kasich and Marco Rubio. While detractors hurl the "establishment" epithet at them, they typically preach the uplifting promise of conservatism. Rubio abandoned this approach when he attacked Trump recently, and it backfired. As my grandfather would say, "Don't wrestle a skunk. Though you could win, you'll never smell the same."
New York Times columnist David Brooks says the Rubio/Kasich brand is champion of "limited but energetic use of government to expand mobility and widen openness and opportunity." Typically, this has a popular appeal, but it has been significantly drowned out by Donald Trump this year.
Though it's been said that the Republican Party is a big-tent organization, it might be more appropriate to liken it to a three-legged stool these days. They don't all have to get along, but if one of the legs — the disaffected, the orthodox conservatives, or the moderates — bails, there's a serious chance the whole thing will collapse.
The GOP has never looked more rickety in my life.
Contact David Allen Martin at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @DMart423.